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Koro fails to recognise his grand-daughter, Paikea, as the next leader of the Whangara tribe. Koro Apirana is a Maori chief of a small community in coastal New Zealand (the Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand.)
Koto's people once shared an identity strongly rooted in their cultural heritage and proud of their traditions. Now they are dispirited soft-drug users, dependent on welfare, lacking a sense of past, purpose or direction.
Koro Apirana traces his ancestry back to the myth of Paikea, who rode a whale from Hawaiki to establish the Whangara community in New Zealand. The first-bon son inherits the chieftanship.
Koro, is initially disappointed in his first-born son, Porourangi, who is more interested in pursuing his artistic career internationally, than in becoming the next chief. This could be considered Koro's first failure: that he fails to acknowledge his son's aspirations talent and right to determine his own future.
Similarly, he fails to acknowledge the potential of his second son because he is so driven by his vision of a patri-lineal leadership restoring the integrity of his people.
However, his biggest failure is his blindness, in the face of all evidence, that his grand-daughter, actually possesses all of the leadership qualities for the future of the tribe that he is seeking - because a female leader is unthinkable. Paikea's twin brother (and her mother) died when she was born, and so Koro is fixated on the presumption that the dead twin was the legitimate chief.
Eventually, Koro has to affirm, not merely the exceptional abilities of his grand-daughter, but that, for his people to retrieve pride and security in their cultural identity, they may need, in Paikea's words, "lots of leaders", so that "everyone will be strong, not just the ones that have been chosen."
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